Captain of the Brazilian team that won the 1958 World Cup
The footballer Bellini, alias Hilderaldo Luiz Bellini, who has died aged 83, was Brazil's centre-half and captain when they first won the World Cup, in Sweden in 1958. A powerful, resolute and sometimes abrasive central marker, he was one of the key players in the four-in-a-line (or flat-back-four) defence that Brazil introduced at the tournament and that would go on to sweep the game after their triumph. In 1962 he was passed over for the team that contested and won the World Cup in Chile, his place going to Mauro; but he was centre-half in 1966, playing in the first two of Brazil's three ill-fated games in England.
Bellini was born in the town of Itapira, in São Paulo state, and his first club was the local Itapira Atlético, followed by the São João da Boa Vista club, and Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro, from 1952 until 1962. He then moved to São Paulo, and remained there until 1968.
"Being an easygoing sort of chap," Bellini wrote, "I was perhaps not as ambitious as some." He gained his first international recognition only at the relatively late age of 26, when he was chosen to be part of the squad for the South American Championship in Lima in 1957, though the centre-half role was filled by Edson. Bellini did not have to wait long to be capped, however. Hard on the heels of that tournament, Brazil played two World Cup qualifying games against Peru, and he was chosen for both of them. He did well enough not only to keep his place right through to the 1958 World Cup finals but to become captain. After victory in the final he was presented with the trophy on the pitch and lifted it triumphantly above his head – an unusual and expansive gesture for the times, and one that was to be much copied in subsequent years by other captains. A statue of Bellini in that pose was eventually erected in front of the Maracanã stadium in Rio.
"There was nothing extraordinary about our defensive methods," he said about the team's performance in Sweden. "I took it upon myself to tackle an opponent entering the defence from our right, a striker from the left being handled by Orlando." Broadly speaking, Bellini was a dominant figure throughout the tournament, placing an emphasis on studying the opponents' buildup from midfield and assessing where the thrust would come from.
He did have one fortunate moment during the goalless draw against England in the Ullevi stadium, Gothenburg, in Brazil's second match. Derek Kevan, England's centre-forward, was racing through when Bellini brought him down. There seemed good claims for a penalty, but the referee allowed play to go on.
He had stronger opposition to contend with when Brazil played France in Stockholm in the semi-final. The French players Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine had proved a devastating combination, with little Kopa making the bullets for the quick, strong, stocky Fontaine to fire. Bellini called him "the best getter of goals I saw in Sweden".
Early in the game it seemed that Brazil would be in for a tormenting time, but an injury took the accomplished French centre-half, Robert Jonquet, off the pitch and the 10 French players eventually lost 5-2, with Pelé scoring a hat-trick. In the final, which Brazil also won 5-2, Agne Simonsson, Sweden's centre-forward, did break through past Bellini for Sweden's second goal but, by that time, Brazil had the match won.
In Chile four years later, Bellini was understudy to Mauro and did not get a game. Nevertheless, he felt that he made his contribution to Brazil's success in training, tactical talks "and helping to stimulate and maintain the spirits of the party".
In 1966 Brazil picked an older side, re-calling Bellini at the age of 36. He and the team survived their opening match against Bulgaria in Liverpool, winning 2-0. But in the second game Bellini and his fellow defenders could do little against the inspirational play of Hungary's ubiquitous centre-forward, Flórián Albert. Bellini was dropped from the team, who also lost their third match, against Portugal, and were thus eliminated. He retired from football in 1969.
Bellini saw himself as a gentle giant, "a peaceful man off the field". He went into business with his in-laws, opening a shop, "and in that role I look very little like a football player, particularly the hard, combative player I am said to be." According to an interview in 2008 with Brasileiros magazine, he also trained as a lawyer, though he never practised. In recent years he had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
He is survived by his wife Giselda, whom he married in 1963, and their two children, Carla and Junior.
• Bellini (Hilderaldo Luiz Bellini), footballer, born 7 June 1930; died 20 March 2014